Data drives the critical decisions we make every day. The Iowa Department of Transportation has long been a leader in the collection of transportation data, including things like traffic volumes, lane width, and sufficiency ratings. Many custom data systems have been developed by or for us that use the latitude and longitude of the centerlines of every public roadway to give a common linear reference point to tie together many types of data.
These systems, most notably the Geographic Information Management System (GIMS), provided access to a variety of information, but were sometimes complex to use and required a desktop application to access the data.
In our quest to be smarter, simpler, and customer driven, the interface for accessing many of the datasets is moving away from GIMS to a mobile-friendly web-based environment we are calling the Roadway Asset Management System (RAMS).
Karen Carroll, with the Office of Research and Analytics, said, “Because of all the ground work previously done in GIMS and the Linear Referencing System, along with DOTers advancing their technical skills, moving the data to the web-based RAMS has been fairly easy.”
Carroll said, “GIMS will still be available for anyone who needs historic data, but all updates after Aug. 1 will be made only in RAMS.”
How RAMS works
RAMS uses a commercially available geographic information system (GIS) product called Roads and Highways as its foundation. Roads and Highways was developed by ESRI, a GIS mapping software company the Iowa DOT has worked with extensively over the years and provides a universal method to locate our business data.
Iowa DOT’s RAMS Administrator Mike Clement points out the “off-the-shelf” system will be much more user-friendly and allow any Iowa DOT employee with internet access and logged into the Iowa DOT’s network to view, analyze, and manage data in the field.
Ryan Wyllie, with the Office of Research and Analytics, says, “As more datasets are brought into the system, they can easily be tied together for analysis purposes. For example, we can take our deer kill data and merge it with crashes, lighting, and signing. We might see that instead of just needing to post a sign in an area with high deer hits, perhaps we should look at putting a new light in the area.”
The team says using Road and Highways will also make updating data simpler be moving from a manual to an automated process. Clement said, “When there are any road changes, one update to the system will automatically make the same change across all data sets. Right now, users have to do a lot of manual updating.”
Adding tools to improve data analysis
Wyllie says the changeover allows much more flexibility for users. “One of the additional tools we’ll be utilizing in RAMS is Road Analyzer™ by Transcend Spatial Solutions. Using that tool, you’ll be able to see the area in different ways: straight-line, street view, or ArcGIS map. You will be able to see the construction history of the specific road segment you choose, along with many other data points, including surface type and width and maintenance area data all in one place.”